Kate Oldfield – Managing Partner and Head of Personal Injury – discusses the recent tragic headlines surrounding allergic reactions to food products.

Kate Oldfield, Managing Partner and Head of Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence at DBF Law

We have all been saddened by the recent headlines surrounding the death of two Pret A Manger customers.  Both died after suffering an allergic reaction after eating a product.  The first incident involved a 15 year old girl who died after eating a baguette in 2016.  A second person is believed to have died from an allergic reaction to consuming a product in 2017.   Both are tragic cases.

The reason why we suffer from allergies is unfortunately little understood.  There is a suggestion that genetics may play a role in addition to our environment. Whatever the cause, be it climate change, excessive cleanliness or the increased use of medicines there has been an explosion in the prevalence of food allergies.

The main food groups causing allergic reactions include milk, egg, nuts, wheat and shell fish.  Rather alarmingly, figures suggest that there has been a 50% rise in food allergies in children between 1997 and 2011.  In the United States, 1:13 children suffer from a food allergy or two students in every classroom.

The food industry needs to be aware of this rising and potentially deadly problem.  Food allergies can cause a range of symptoms from itchiness of the least serious type through to a rash through to tragic sudden death.  As a result everyone within the food industry, no matter what part they play, needs to be educated, needs to be aware of these potential deadly outcomes and needs to be trained in the preparation, labelling and serving of food.

At Davis Blank Furniss we have seen a marked increase in the number of these types of claims recently against restaurants in particular.  The typical scenario is that a client has asked a waiter whilst ordering their food whether the item contains a specific ingredient that they are allergic to.  On being reassured by the staff they have then gone on to order and eat the food and have then suffered very significant and severe consequences.

Clearly we all need to be educated about these deadly reactions and the various treatment options including immediate hospital admission.

For more information about Kate and her work, please click HERE.

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